The Obama campaign recently found itself in a little hot water after it was caught asking for an off-the-record interview from the Des Moines Register — the largest newspaper in Iowa. Normally, the Register publishes its interviews with presidential candidates, but in this case, it agreed to an off-the-record conversation with President Obama. Afterwards, however, it revealed the situation in an editorial, which led to an embarrassing moment for the campaign. In response, the Obama campaign allowed the Register to publish the interview, as is custom.
This interview didn’t need to be kept from the public — it’s a familiar statement, from the president, on why he deserves a second term. If there’s anything remarkable about it, it’s that Obama is unusually clear in making his case. Take this, for example:
“The suggestion somehow that if we hadn’t pursued Obamacare, somehow we would have gotten additional stimulus out of the Republicans, for example, that we could have primed the pump more, that’s just not borne out by any of the evidence
“In fact, the first stimulus, when we were contracting at 8 percent a quarter, as I was on my way up — a month after I’d been elected, or two months after I’d been elected — as I was on my way up to meet the House Republicans to share with them my ideas about how we should pass this Recovery Act, they already said they’d vote against it
“Now, it was a political strategy that won them back the House, but it wasn’t good for the country.”
I don’t know if this is a winning message for the president, but it’s certainly one that voters should have been hearing from the campaign. If there’s a question people have for the last four years, it’s “what happened?” There was supposed to be bipartisan agreement and progress, but it didn’t happen. Republicans have offered their version of the story: Obama was too partisan. Obama has been a little more reticent to offer his version of events, perhaps for fear that it will seem like he’s trying to dodge blame. But here, he offers his view of what happened, pins the blame on Republicans, and defends the actions his administration took in the first year. It’s good stuff and he would have been well-served by it in the first debate (to use one example).
If there’s anything that might have raised eyebrows in the interview, it’s this short section on Obama’s hopes for immigration reform:
“The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done.”
This doesn’t sound “blunt” to me, it sounds like reality: Republicans have alienated Latinos in a huge way since 2008, which has contributed to their overwhelming support for President Obama — a nearly 50 point advantage, according to an average of polls from Latino Decisions.
If this interview raises a question, it’s this: Why hasn’t Obama been this clear more often in articulating his case for a second term, and his plans for the next four years? It’s not that he doesn’t have them, but until recently, talking about them has been less of a priority for Team Obama. Why?